For the klutzes who constantly crack or scuff their mobile phones and portable devices, help may be on the way.
The idea, as presented in a patent filed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and VP Greg Heart, suggests using a phone's accelerometer -- a device that measures proper acceleration -- to detect when it's falling and deploy miniature airbags to pad the impact. Other possibilities listed by the pair to cushion everbody's favorite tech device include puffing out streams of gas to slow down the fall, or using springs instead of airbags.
A safety monitoring system including a gyroscope, camera, infrared beam, radar and other sensors would be used to detect motion, orientation and distance and then quickly determine if the device is at risk of being damaged. The patent, which was filed in February but was only recently made public, also suggests that mobile devices could contain a laser rangefinder that could detect the speed of an approaching surface, while the phone could sense whether it was safely stored in a bag or pocket or plummeting to a hard surface.
Bezos reportedly said the idea hit him like a lightning bolt after he dropped his own cell phone. It is unclear if or when the patent will be granted. But many believe the product is likely to be an Amazon endeavor, a move the company must hope will advance it into the ranks of celebrated innovators like Apple.